Racism in Switzerland? Yes.

Oddly enough we still seem to discuss whether there is racism in Switzerland. Yes, there is.

Here a few hard facts from the NCCR on the move.

  • Job applicants with Black skin colour on their picture and a name from Cameroon have to send 30% more job applications to get invited for a job interview. They are Swiss citizens. Blog.
  • Job applicants with a name indicating Kosovan ancestors have to send up to 50% more job applications to get invited for a job interview. They are Swiss citizens. Blog.
  • 18% of the Swiss population entitled to vote are of ‘immigrant origin’. In 2015, 13% of the candidates for the National Council had a name suggesting ‘immigrant origin’ — only 6% got elected. Blog.
  • If your name suggests Turkish or Kosovan ancestry, you’re 3-5 percentage points less likely to be invited to view an apartment: There are landlords who do not want to meet you. Blog.

We also have tons of material on the experience of discrimination, experiencing racism, or negative attitudes to immigrants and foreigners.

Image credit: CC-by-sa Quinn Dombrowski

Call for Papers: Discrimination and Racism in Cross-National Perspective — IMISCOE 2020

Discrimination and Racism in Cross-National Perspective

Panel organised at the 17th IMISCOE Annual Conference Luxembourg

30 June – 2 July 2020

Organizers: Patrick Simon (INED), Didier Ruedin (University of Neuchâtel)

For a long time racism has been studied without references to discrimination and was mainly conceived as a specific expression of prejudice. The turn to more subtle and systemic forms of racism has paved the way to the development of studies in terms of ethnic and racial discrimination. This researche on discrimination against immigrants and their descendants in Europe has grown significantly in the last twenty years, paralleling the settlement of immigrant populations. They document differential treatment and discrimination in different markets (e.g. labour market, housing) and social spheres regulated by principles of equality (e.g. school, health service, police). Patterns of discrimination are embedded in institutional contexts and a larger societal environment, characterised not only by economic uncertainties and increasing political polarisation in public debate around immigrant related issues, but also by increasing diversity and opportunities of contact. Such changes in the context are likely to affect attitudes and ideology diffusion in majority and minority members. However, studies about discrimination do not refer specifically to racism, and the methodological gains in measuring discrimination did not transfer directly to the measurement of racism. How far racism and ethnic and racial discrimination are distinct, and how they relate to each other are key issues we would like to explore in this panel.

This workshop will bring together researchers on discrimination and racism, tackling these issues from various disciplines, theoretical backgrounds and methods. We welcome empirical studies of discrimination patterns across a large variety of domains, theoretical perspectives on how the prevalence of ethnic discrimination and racism should be explained and conceptualised, and studies on the consequences of anti-discrimination policies and legislation, in historical perspective as well as in contemporary contexts. We also welcome papers which use and discuss theories about cross-country differences, ethnic hierarchies, and evolution over time, including studies which compare the historical experiences of discrimination and racism among early European immigrants in the US with more recent immigrant groups on both sides of the Atlantic.

Submit your abstract specifying the research question, data, methods and findings (200 words maximum) at http://neuchatel.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0B2Oxgv352FCI9n no later than 25 November 2019. For further information get in touch with Didier Ruedin (didier.ruedin@unine.ch). The notification of acceptance will be made by 30 November 2019.

Discrimination in the Housing Market: In the Press

Our study on the discrimination of people with foreign-sounding names in housing market in Switzerland has been picked up by the press. The sunday tabloid SonntagsBlick run the story with many details. I was happy to see that the news report, as well as the press coverage that followed in other newspapers, was quite accurate.

I even ventured into the online comments, just curious to see what the self-select group of commenters had to say. A few offered their own experience of what we describe in the report: flats not being available when a person with a foreign name phones up, but still available when a person with a ‘native’ name phones up. Quite a few defended the right to discriminate and offered their own experience as landlords, hearsay, and stereotypes as justifications for what we would call statistical discrimination. (This kind of ‘evidence’ is also quite ‘funny’ in the sense that whether you had a good or bad experience with tenants from XYZ, there’s another commentator with the opposite experience.) I find this quite interesting, and we had similar reactions in a study on hiring discrimination: A substantial part of the population does not seem to understand that statistical discrimination is also discrimination. Quite interesting is that none of the comments I have seen picked up on the difference between having a ‘foreign-sounding’ name, and being a foreign citizen — the perception as ethnic groups. Our results hold irrespective of citizenship, so we show that some Swiss citizens are discriminated (too) because of their name.

Press coverage: SonntagsBlick, Tages-Anzeiger, Bluewin, Basler Zeitung, Nau.ch, 20 Minuten, Mieterverband

Auer, Daniel, Julie Lacroix, Didier Ruedin, and Eva Zschirnt. 2019. ‘Ethnische Diskriminierung auf dem Schweizer Wohnungsmarkt’. Grenchen: BWO.

Image: cc-by turkeychik

National Study on Ethnic Discrimination in the Housing Market

Today I’m giving you the first national field experiment on ethnic discrimination in the housing market. Financed by the Swiss Office for Housing and the NCCR on the move, we examined to what extent one’s name affects the likelihood to be invited to view an apartment. We covered the entire country, across language regions and across urban and rural areas.

Between March and October 2018, our diligent research assistants sent more than 11,000 enquiries to over 5,700 landlords in all parts of Switzerland. We varied the name of the person sending an enquiry (stimulus sampling) along with other features such as politeness or the family situation. Overall over 70% of the enquiries were answered positively in the sense of an invitation to view the apartment or steps in this direction.

We find no clear differences between commercial and private landlords. The response rate for women was around 1 percent higher, while highly qualified people had a 2 percent higher response rate, especially academics who use their doctoral title (we dind’t expect this to make such a big difference when we designed the study). As previous field experiments have shown, the quality of the message we sent affected the probability of a response: Compared to a standard text, the response rate for friendlier queries is about 5 percent higher, while queries with the default text from online portals show a 10 percent lower response rate.

We find evidence of ethnic discrimination in the sense of unequal treatment based on the name. Enquiries with names from neighbouring countries (Germany, Italy, France) were even invited somewhat more frequently to view apartments than those from Switzerland, but people with Kosovar (response rate just under 3 percent lower) or Turkish names (response rate about 5 percent lower) have significantly fewer chances of being invited for a viewing. Whether those interested were naturalised with foreign-sounding names or stated that they had a permanent residence permit was hardly a factor. The rate of discrimination we observe is similar in order of magnitude to that found in comparable studies in other Western countries.

With the national coverage, we can also observe variation in responses by local context where the property is located. In municipalities with higher rental prices, the positive response rate is higher for everyone, and a higher vacancy rate in the municipality is associated with a higher response rate, except for people with Kosovar names. In urban areas the probability of discriminating against people with foreign names is lower. We also find that people with foreign-sounding names are less likely to be invited in municipalities with restrictive political attitudes towards immigration (as measured in the results of popular initiatives and referendums).

Auer, Daniel, Julie Lacroix, Didier Ruedin, and Eva Zschirnt. 2019. ‘Ethnische Diskriminierung auf dem Schweizer Wohnungsmarkt’. Grenchen: BWO. https://www.bwo.admin.ch/bwo/de/home/Wohnungsmarkt/studien-und-publikationen/diskriminierung-auf-der-schweizer-wohnungsmarkt.html.